Should we be concerned about “all people” as Christians? Absolutely!
Doesn’t Jesus say that he died for “all people”? You bet he did!
“For God so loved the world that he gave his one and only Son, that whoever believes in him shall not perish but have eternal life.” John 3:16
Didn’t Jesus instruct his followers to make disciples of “all people”? I can’t argue that either!
“Therefore go and make disciples of all nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit, and teaching them to obey everything I have commanded you. And surely I am with you always, to the very end of the age.” Matthew 28:19-20
So what is the deal with the cartoon picking on church leadership?
Okay, hear me out. Sometimes as Christians I think we are guilty of giving the easy Sunday School answer and leaving it at that. Sometimes I think it is safer to simply scratch the surface and not look deeper. I will never argue that against the fact that Jesus died for “all” and is concerned about “all.”
What I will argue is that Jesus’ focus and intentionality run deeper than just the safe surface answers.
Sometimes saying “all people” does not capture the intentionality of Jesus.
When we dig beneath the surface and safe answers, we find that Jesus operated with an intended target audience for his ministry. Let us not forget that Jesus said he did not come for the healthy, but rather the sick.
“Jesus said to them, ‘It is not the healthy who need a doctor, but the sick. I have not come to call the righteous, but sinners.’” Mark 2:17
That doesn’t fit into the “all people” box so nicely. We may not even like the idea that if Jesus came today that he wouldn’t be too considered about spending time with us people that call ourselves Christians and followers of Jesus if we are honest.
If this is true you have to ask yourself just how specific was the target audience of the ministry of Jesus?
To answer this question, it will be important to look at the words that Jesus spoke directly to the Church Leadership of his day. I want to pay special attention to two sets of scriptures. One scripture marks the beginning of Jesus’ formal ministry. The other scripture marks the ending of his formal ministry. These two sets of scriptures act like opening and closing arguments directly from Jesus to Church Leadership about who was important to him. Not only who was important to him but who he wanted the Church of his day to be concerned about reaching.
I like to think of these scriptures as bookends. When you picture a set of bookends what do they do? They hold up a set of books on the shelf and keep them aligned, in order, and from falling over.
So, what are these bookend scriptures and what do they reveal about the very specific target audience of Jesus?
In the first scripture, Jesus fulfills the prophecy of Isaiah by declaring he is the promised Messiah. Not only does Jesus do this but he also reveals who he is planning on targeting in his ministry efforts.
The Spirit of the Lord is upon me,
for he has anointed me to bring Good News to the poor.
He has sent me to proclaim that captives will be released,
that the blind will see,
that the oppressed will be set free,
and that the time of the Lord’s favor has come.
Jesus does not stand up at the pulpit of the Church declaring that he was there for “all people.” Jesus declares that he came to minister to the poor, prisoners, disabled, and the oppressed. As you read through the Gospel accounts Jesus follows through on his words. The vast majority of his miracles, teachings, and efforts are targeted at these people groups.
Now let us consider the other bookend scripture where Jesus sits down with the Church leadership one last time a week before he goes to the cross to die. This would no doubt be his final arguments, his final instructions, his final plea, his drop the mic moment with leadership.
What is important to note in the scripture is the fact that Jesus narrows the list from four people groups to just two.
“The servant returned and told his master what they had said. His master was furious and said, ‘Go quickly into the streets and alleys of the town and invite the poor, the crippled, the blind, and the lame.’ Luke 14:21
So, who does Jesus tell Church Leadership they need to reach with a real sense of urgency? He specifically said the Church needs to reach the poor and the disabled.
Unfortunately, Church Leadership does not get it. We know this because within Luke Chapter 14 Jesus repeats himself three times pleading with the church of his day to urgently reach the poor and disabled.
So, do “all people” matter?
You bet they do!
Did certain people matter more to Jesus? You would be naïve to not think so.
So, you tell me why should church leadership not both follow the example of Jesus and the extremely specific commands of Jesus?
In doing so, it will help the church like bookends to stay aligned, in order, and from falling over.